The Timeline for the German Tanker Altmark
including the Altmark Incident of February 16, 1940
 
  Sunday, October 29, 1939  
  The German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee rendezvoused with the German Tanker Altmark for refueling and the transferr of the prisoners of the 5 British ships that had recently been sunk by the SMS Admiral Graf Spee. Captain Langsdorff conferred with Grand Admiral Erich Raeder in Berlin and concurred with the suggestion to proceed to the Indian Ocean. The Altmark would set sail for Germany with the 299 prisoners from the British merchant ships Clement, Newton Beech, Ashlea, Huntsman, and Trevanion.  
   
  Monday, January 22, 1940  
  The Altmark, under command of Captain Heinrich Dau, set sail for Germany from the South Atlantic Ocean. The Altmark had been in the South Atlantic in a successful attempt to avoid being spotted the Royal Navy. The Altmark would avoiding the shipping lanes and pass between Iceland and the Faeroe Islands before reaching Norwegian territorial waters on February 14.  
   
  Wednesday, February 14, 1940  
  A Lockheed Hudson of RAF Coastal Command located the German tanker Altmark as it reached Norwegian territorial waters. The 299 British merchant sailors taken prisoner were still aboard the Altmark.  
   
  Thursday, February 15, 1940  
  The German tanker Altmark was investigated three times by the Royal Norwegian Navy. In each instance, the men who boarded the ship carried out cursory searches and took the Germans' word that the vessel was conducting purely commercial business and did not inspect the hold and allowed the ship to continue on its way. The British prisoners held in the ship's hold reportedly made strenuous efforts to signal their presence to the point where the German crew had to drown out the noise by running winches.  
   
  Friday, February 16, 1940  
  The British 4th Flotilla, under command of Captain Captain Philip Vian in the HMS Cossack, with the light cruiser HMS Arethusa (26), and four Fleet destroyers, HMS Ivanhoe (D 16), HMS Maori (F 24), and HMS Sikh (F 82), set sail from Rosyth at midnight with orders to sweep the Skagerrak for German iron ore ships running up to Narvik.  
   
  The Altmark was spotted by a British search plane in Norwegian waters as it passed Bergen at noon with her guns removed to make it appear that she was an innocent tanker.  
   
  Sir Charles Forbes, C-in-C Home Fleet sent off a signal to Captain Vian "Altmark your objective. Act accordingly." As aircraft were giving differing reports Vian divided his force with the HMS Intrepid and HMS Ivanhoe, were sent off to scour a Northward Zone and the HMS Cossack, HMS Maori and HMS Sikh searched away to the south.  
   
  Around 2:45 p.m. the HMS Arethusa spotted the Altmark being escorted by two Norwegian torpedo boats. Captain Q. D. Graham in the HMS Arethusa, sent in the destroyers the HMS Intrepid and HMS Ivanhoe to intercept the Altmark. The Altmark ignored orders to stop and its made it into Josing Fiord with the Norwegian torpedo boats blocking off the channel to the British.  
   
  Captain Vian and the HMS Coassack force arrived and demanded that the Norwegians allow the Altmark to be boarded and searched. The Norwegians refused reiterating that the Altmark had already been searched three times the previous day.  
   
  At 5:25 p.m. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston S. Churchill (after consultations with Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Lord Halifax) sent Captain Vian instructions to board the German tanker Altmark with or without Norwegian cooperation.  
   
  At approximately 10 p.m. Captain Vian met with the Norwegians and relayed the receipt of Churchill's orders. The Norwegians again declined the offer of a joint boarding. At approximately 11:20 p.m. the Cossack moved towards the Altmark with a boarding party standing by to engage her. The Altmark unsuccessfully attempted to ram the HMS Cossack and was boarded. After a brief struggle in which four Germans were killed and five wounded, the British sailors took control of the ship. Opening one of the holds, a British sailor called down, "Are there any Englishmen down there?" Upon hearing a positive answer, he called "Then come up. The Navy's here!"  
   
  Another Admiralty signal was received that ordered Captain Vian to take the ship as a prize if prisoners were found. If no prisoners were found the officers of the Altmark were to be brought back to England to ascertain the prisoners fate. As the Altmark grounded during maneuvers to avoid the HMS Cossack’s boarding attempt no effort was made to take her as a prize.  
   
  February 17, 1940  
  At 2 a.m. Captain Vian was ordered to proceed back to England with the prisoners.  
   
  The Altmark incident angered Norway as its neutrality had been infringed upon by both sides with the Germans bringing prisoners into neutral waters and the British had attacking the ship. While the decisive action of the Royal Navy brought accolades in Britain it spurred German plans for action in Scandinavia as Swedish iron ore was critical to its arms industry. Deciding that Norwegian neutrality could not be trusted to protect this vital supply line, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of Norway.  
   
  Tuesday, August 6, 1942  
  The Altmark was renamed the Uckermark. During Admiral Günther Lütjens' Atlantic operations with the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau between January and March 1941, the Uckermark, under command of Captain Walther von Zatorski, was a supply ship and scout attached to the squadron. As the result of her reports the battleships were directed to various merchant vessels which were then sunk.  
   
  Monday, September 9, 1942  
  The Uckermark left France for Japan with a cargo of vegetable oil and fuel, and acting as a supply ship for the auxiliary cruiser Michel on the way.  
   
  Sunday, November 24, 1942  
  The Uckermark arrived at Yokohama, Japan with a cargo of vegetable oil and fuel. Her new orders were to act as the replenishment ship for the German raider Thor, which was raiding merchant shipping in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean areas.  
   
  Saturday, November 30, 1942  
  The Uckermark, at anchor in Yokohama, Japan suffered a huge explosion which ripped the vessel apart. The German raider Thor and the captured Australian passenger liner Nankin, both of which were moored near the Uckermark were sunk by the explosion. 53 crewmen from Uckermark died in the explosion. A number of survivors of the ship were sent to France on the blockade runner Doggerbank and perished when that ship was mistakenly sunk by the submarine U-43 on March 3, 1943. All but one of the 365 strong crew of the Uckermark were lost at sea.  
     
   
     
   
 

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